Women Bishops

From Reuters:

(Reuters) – The Church of England’s dioceses, or regions, have voted in favour of consecrating female bishops, campaigners said on Sunday, clearing one hurdle in a long legislative battle to let women break through the “stained glass ceiling.”

Only two of the Church’s 44 dioceses voted against the draft legislation, easily securing the 50 percent required for it to go back to the General Synod, or parliament, for another vote, said WATCH, a group campaigning for women bishops.

Dioceses have been balloting their members since March this year and Sunday’s result confirmed what had largely been a foregone conclusion following the Synod’s earlier backing of the motion.

But traditionalist Anglo Catholics and conservative evangelicals have threatened to continue to oppose the draft legislation, calling for more concessions.

Even if the draft is backed by a final synod vote next year, the first woman bishop is unlikely to be consecrated before 2014.

The Church of England is part of the 80-million strong, worldwide Anglican Communion. Other Anglican churches, including in the United States, Australia and Canada, already have women bishops.

But traditionalists and evangelicals continue to argue against it on biblical grounds.

The consecration of women bishops is one of the most divisive issues facing the church, alongside same sex marriages and the consecration of homosexuals.

The Church of England has been criticised for being obsessed with such issues at a time when families are struggling with economic hardship amid rising unemployment, higher prices and frozen wages as part of the British government’s attempts to rein in a record peacetime budget deficit.

The Church was seen as weak and confused when demonstrators protesting against the excesses of capitalism last month parked 200 tents outside one of the its most famous places of worship, St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Liberals in the Church, who say it is insulting not to admit women to positions of power, argue concessions have already been made to appease opponents.

About 50 disaffected traditionalist bishops and priests in the Church of England have decided to leave the Anglican Church and take up Pope Benedict’s offer to switch to Rome.

Others have decided to stay and fight from within. They say Jesus Christ’s apostles were all men and that there is nothing in the Bible or church history to support women bishops.

They pointed to the number of dioceses who backed a following motion, or secondary motion, calling for improved provision for opponents to support their case.

Nearly a third of the Church of England’s working priests are female.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

    “The Church of England has been criticised for being obsessed with such issues at a time when families are struggling with economic hardship amid rising unemployment, higher prices and frozen wages as part of the British government’s attempts to rein in a record peacetime budget deficit.”

    Personally (and I’m not unbiased: my wife’s an Episcopalian priest), I’d think this accusation would be better posed to those who opposed women’s ordination, and who spend so much time fighting against those of us who would allow women to do those offices we feel God has called them to do.

  • Anna

    It’s about time.

  • Robert

    Jesus didn’t appoint bishops, and we do have a woman apostle in the NT; Junia (Romans 16:7).

  • http://www.ccada.org Kate Johnson

    I tire of the vitriol used by those opposing women in leadership roles, ordained or otherwise., often questioning whether anyone who could be a proponent of women in leadership is really a Christian. If God calls a woman, they question whether the woman has heard correctly from God. When a man feels called, they say praise the Lord. I’m for anyone who recognizes and affirms anyone’s calling, regardless of gender.

  • Hector

    The big problem here is that the downside of consecrating women bishops (if they are not capable of being consecrated) is much worse than the downside of not consecrating them (if they are capable). If the church goes ahead and ‘consecrates’ women bishops, and they turn out to be wrong, then the outcome is going to be beyond terrible: millions of people are going to be unable to receive Christ in the eucharist, to have their sins absolved, and so forth. On the contrary, if the church decides not to allow women bishops, and it turns out they were wrong, then the consequence is just that some qualified people were not able to be called to the ministry.

    I think it makes a lot of sense to be risk-averse, and to err on the conservative side, when reasoning about who can dispense the sacraments. Personally I’m on the fence about whether women can be priests or bishops, but I think there were and are strong prudential reasons against it. (And of course, I have no problem with women exercising all sorts of other leadership roles within the church or outside; the only thing I’m on the fence about is whether they can confect the sacraments. Rome and Constantinople, of course, say no, which doesn’t make them right, necessarily, but it’s at least worth considering before we make a drastic step.)

  • Hector

    …and further, I’m incensed and outraged that Parliament had the temerity to get involved in an issue of Church doctrine. The church, in the last analysis, owes its loyalty to Christ, not to the state or to modern feminist dogma.

  • Fish

    Men who consider themselves Godly but stand in the way of God’s call to women should consider they might be standing in the way of God.

  • Robert A

    Men who read the Bible for what it says object to the entire practice of bishops.

    An authentic read of he New Testament clearly shows male headship in the ecclesial leadership roles.

    That feminist reactors have had to stoop to digging up minor, and trivial exceptions shows how flimsy their biblical case actually is.

  • Elaine

    “Personally I’m on the fence about whether women can be priests or bishops, but I think there were and are strong prudential reasons against it.”

    Hector@5,
    I am curious to know what the strongest reasons are that keep you on the fence?

  • Elaine

    Hector@5,

    And perhaps I’m mistken but, I understood Anglicans held to “All may; none must; some should” regarding absolution. I don’t think anyone would be in danger of having unforgiven sin.

  • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

    Hector seems to raise the issue that, if women are ordained, and this isn’t God’s will, then many will remain unsaved (especially in regard to the need for the sacraments). While Christian history does demonstrate a difference of opinion on the importance of the sacraments, I was under the impression that it was all but universally accepted that, whatever is accomplished through the sacraments, it is accomplished by God, and not by virtue of the person dispensing the sacraments. I am therefore quite secure in my belief that the danger he seems concerned about simply does not exist.

    In fact, I would argue in exactly the opposite direction. There is so much need out in the world, and so many people who still need Christ, who are we to reduce the number of willing people who can help fill that need, in whatever way they are called by God to do so?

  • David Morris

    I think this is missing one of the larger concerns here. What will happen to those people in the CofE who cannot accept the authority of a woman bishop? Assuming that they cannot be persuaded to change their positions…. What do we do then? That’s the rub here. Is there a safety net for an Anglo Catholic or Evangelical parish which ends up with a woman bishop. Do we just toss out the ordained minister? Wouldn’t it be a bit off to toss out people who believe Jesus is the way, the truth and the life but not people who think he was a mythical nice guy to be emulated in some fashion?

  • P.

    Robert A – do the women at your church wear headcoverings? It is biblical…

    I’m on the side of those who look at the context, the particular situation that Paul was addressing instead of just citing chapter and verse. Looking at context plus looking at the NT overall I believe shows that women in leadership is permitted. As for those who cannot accept a woman bishop, then perhaps they need to do a bit of praying for wisdom. The church has to move forward and do what it believes is Godly instead of appeasing certain groups (those opposed to ordination).

  • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

    David,

    As I understand it, no one is advocating “tossing out” anyone who can’t abide having a woman bishop. If they choose to leave, that’s a pity, but there are indeed new groups being created out of such people, as the article itself alludes.

    But the important thing to note is that people are choosing to leave. They’re not being thrown out. No matter what they may be saying to the contrary.

  • Anna

    David,

    Are you also concerned about the church tossing out those who feel called by God to serve as priests and bishops?

    150 years ago the parallel argument was about ordaining black men; in the U.S. at least entire churches split over the issue of slavery, which included vigorous debates over the question of whether black men could legitimately be ordained as ministers.

    Currently there are many, many churches — evangelical, Orthodox, Catholic — which oppose the ordination of women, and those who think God agrees with them that ordaining women is wrong, would certainly be welcomed there.

    In the meantime I am grateful for churches that do not send the message to me and my daughter that God thinks we are inherently unfit to serve as a pastor or priest or bishop because we are female.

  • ao

    Hector (#5),

    You said: “…On the contrary, if the church decides not to allow women bishops, and it turns out they were wrong, then the consequence is just that some qualified people were not able to be called to the ministry.”

    There was a time in American history, not very long ago, where this quasi-Pascal’s wager was used to keep blacks from being allowed to hold positions of authority in racially mixed churches. One side said that, Biblically, leadership was reserved for whites, and followership was reserved for blacks. The other side said that, Biblically, leadership knew no racial boundaries. The whites-only-leadership side argued that, given the debate and uncertainty, it was safer to go with the whites-only approach. After all, if that approach is wrong, then all you did was keep some qualified blacks from having leadership positions, and blacks have many others way they can meaningfully contribute to their church outside of leadership roles.

    I fail to see how your argument is different from this one.


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